Big 12 Conversation: NCAA Tournament Takes, Part I

Posted by Brian Goodman & Chris Stone on March 14th, 2018

With Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas Tech set to play in the Round of 64 tomorrow, Big 12 microsite writers Brian Goodman (@BSGoodman) and Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) break down the burning questions facing the Sooners, Jayhawks and Red Raiders.

Will tomorrow be the last day we see Trae Young in an Oklahoma uniform? (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Brian Goodman: A lot of people are understandably down on Oklahoma after their disastrous finish to the regular season and early exit in the Big 12 Tournament, but the Big Dance can have a way of breathing new life into teams who are limping into it. Do you see the Sooners turning over a new leaf tomorrow afternoon?

Chris Stone: The Sooners don’t exactly look like they want to be playing basketball anymore, so I’m leaning no here. The team doesn’t seem like they enjoy playing together; Trae Young is admittedly tuckered out; and the defense has been a disaster. I expect Rhode Island’s Jared Terrell to set the tone defensively in this game by getting into Young early. It wouldn’t surprise me if Oklahoma wilts from there.

BG: Silvio De Sousa and Malik Newman needed to have big games for Kansas last weekend in the Big 12 Tournament and both delivered. With Udoka Azubuike still on the mend, how important are those two players to the team’s overall prospects?

CS: Even though De Sousa was terrific in the conference tournament, it’s hard to overstate Azubuike’s significance. He’s among the most efficient interior scorers in the country and the Kansas offense is nine points per 100 possessions worse without him on the floor, per Hoop Lens. That said, the Jayhawks averaged 1.20 points per possession during the Big 12 Tournament without him, which is the exact number they managed with him on the court this season. Kansas has shown it can survive without the services of its big man, but De Sousa and Newman would likely need to deliver similar performances to keep up that level of offense into the NCAA Tournament.

BG: The Red Raiders were arguably over-seeded at #3 in the East and enter the NCAA Tournament having lost four of their last six games. Nonetheless, we know that they are a very good team. What do you think of their chances to make it out of the bottom half of that region?

CS: This one all depends on the toe of point guard Keenan Evans. If the senior is fully healthy, the Red Raiders have a shot to make it out of the bottom half in the East. If not, things could get ugly. Tech has the wing defenders to bother Florida’s shooters in that potential match-up and a similar logic applies to Purdue assuming its big men can defend Isaac Haas one-on-one. But everything changes if Evans can’t contribute at a high level offensively. The Red Raiders don’t have anyone else who can create offense like he can and it shows — Texas Tech’s offense is a full 11 points per 100 possessions worse without him on the floor, per Hoop Lens. Obviously Evans is expected to play, so the Red Raiders won’t feel the full effect of his absence, but that puts in perspective how important it is to have him healthy.

Brian Goodman (966 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.


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